Suns clinch playoff spot

CHICAGO - Steve Nash was at his darting best in the final two minutes, paving the way for the Phoenix Suns' eighth straight victory on a night they clinched a playoff spot.

In a 111-105 victory over Chicago, Nash had the Bulls guessing: will he shoot, drive, dump it inside or kick it back out? And with Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich sidelined in the second half with a sprained ankle, Nash had room to work.

In a frantic final stretch, Nash drove to the lane and turned around for a jumper. Seconds later, he maneuvered his way back to the basket and used his familiar scoop shot to score and start a three-point play.

He found Channing Frye for a clutch tiebreaking 3-pointer with 41.6 seconds left, passed to Grant Hill for a dunk and then hit two free throws to finish off his 22-point, 10-assist night.

All from a guy who’s nursing a sore back and the sniffles.

“If I’m honest, I was taking so many meds for my back and cold that I actually felt a little loopy for most of the game,” Nash said. “It helped my back but I was a little dizzy out there. At the end of the game I just tried to hang in there. We had a chance to win and I was fortunate to make some plays when it counted.”

Jason Richardson led the Suns with 27 points and Amare Stoudemire had 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Suns are currently in fourth in the West.

“If you look at all the teams in the West, we’ve had a great run and we haven’t moved anywhere basically,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.

The 6-foot-11 Frye connected on three 3-pointers.

“We were able to space the floor and get some opportunities in the paint and make some plays,” Nash said.

Flip Murray and Derrick Rose, who kept Chicago close down the stretch with 10 points in the final period, had 23 points each. The Bulls are 11/2 games behind Toronto for the eighth playoff spot in East.